Insecticides promote viral outbreaks by altering herbivore competition
While the management of biological invasions is often characterized by a series of single-species decisions, invasive species exist within larger food webs. These biotic interactions can alter the impact of control/eradication programs and may cause suppression efforts to inadvertently facilitate invasion spread and impact. We document the rapid replacement of the invasive Bemisia Middle East–Asia Minor I (MEAM1) cryptic biotype by the cryptic Mediterranean (MED) biotype throughout China and demonstrate that MED is more tolerant of insecticides and a better vector of tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) than MEAM1. While MEAM1 usually excludes MED under natural conditions, insecticide application reverses the MEAM1–MED competitive hierarchy and allows MED to exclude MEAM1. The insecticide-mediated success of MED has led to TYLCV outbreaks throughout China. Our work strongly supports the hypothesis that insecticide use in China reverses the MEAM1–MED competitive hierarchy and allows MED to displace MEAM1 in managed landscapes. By promoting the dominance of a Bemisia species that is a competent viral vector, insecticides thus increase the spread and impact of TYLCV in heterogeneous agroecosystems.